5 Reasons You Should Work at a Start-up – And Tips For Doing So

green lighbulbThis post was originally published on The Works November 21, 2013. Zachary graduated in January 2014 and is still working full time at CustomMade.

This guest post was written by Zachary Williamson. Zack is a 5th year Comm-Media Studies Major. He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department.

While many people go on co-op looking to work for a large, well know brand, I encourage people to consider smaller, less established, start-ups. These kinds of companies tend to be a good fit for self-motivated people, or someone who wants to work in a fast paced environment.

For my second co-op, I was fortunate enough to be hired at CustomMade.com, a start-up that had already secured some venture capital funding, and had been a member of the marketing team during a time of incredible growth. Every co-op is a different experience, but if you want to try something less traditional, a start-up is the way to go.

1. Work at a start-up for at least one co-op.

Working to build a company is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have early in your career. Working at a smaller company means that you are making a far greater impact because you make up a significant portion of the staff. It also means that you have to be flexible, oftentimes wearing many “hats” or serving multiple roles, depending on the needs of the company. That said, you will most likely have a lot of skills to leverage and market when looking for your next co-op, considering you were both the HR and IT assistant.

2. Be ready to make mistakes, and own them when you do.

Part of working at a start-up is building something new. Depending on the field, it’s possible that a company is the first to ever attempt something at a particular scale or in that way. Being cutting edge means you’ll inevitably make mistakes, both personally and as a business; and you’ll most likely make a lot of them. Learn from and take ownership of your mistakes to avoid them in the future. But don’t let fear of making mistakes prevent you from… (see #3).

3. Take risks and force yourself to learn new skills.

One of the co-founders of CustomMade told me they would rather a project fail, than not push it far enough or try at all. Trying out new projects makes you more versatile–and versatility is one of the best skills you can bring to a start-up. Specialization is important, but don’t allow yourself to settle into a comfort zone. All co-ops should be about seeking new opportunities, but small companies in particular have more work than they have employees. Stepping up to a task, and then figuring out how to complete it, will make you that much greater of an asset to the company as a co-op, and a more appealing full time hire in the future.

4. Start-ups move quickly– very quickly.

Most start-ups have limited funds to operate, so they need to be incredibly agile and quick to try new ideas. While it’s all well and good to work out how to complete a task, many are time sensitive. Start-ups have to be quick to adjust and find a viable solution if something isn’t working. Things have to change quickly in order to conserve funds, and sometimes projects have to be abandoned in order for this to happen. This leads into my next point, that…

5. Start-ups don’t have room for egos.

Since speed is critical for a start-ups’ survival, they need to build teams of people who can quickly switch gears and go with the new flow of the company. A negative attitude won’t get you far, every challenge must be approached not with a “this won’t work attitude”, but rather a “how can I make this work, or work better” mindset.

Start-ups require a lot of work, but they can also be incredibly fun and rewarding. They force you to make incredible career developments because you have opportunities to do everything and anything. A lot of start-up culture revolves around the concept of work really hard, play really hard. If you like a new challenge every day and never want a dull moment, consider working at a start-up. It was the best decision I’ve made to kick start my career.

Zack has spent the last four years as a coxswain on NU’s Men’s Rowing Team, and is rounding out his final semester at NU as Comm-Media Studies Major, with minors in Cinema Studies & Production. He has co-oped at the New England Conservatory as a Video Production Co-op and at CustomMade as a Marketing Co-op for 16 months (he never really left). He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department. You can find him on the sidelines of a home game or on twitter @ZackWVisuals. (PS CustomMade is always looking for awesome people to join our team in Cambridge, MA, so feel free to reach out if you’re interested!)

Image Source: AlltopStartups.com, Do You Have a Start-up Idea? 29 Questions to Determine its Viability

Northeastern Aime Cameo Macarons!

Clockwise: Owner Kinesha in front of the Cameo Macaron truck, chocolate macarons, macaron medley, NU love at the order window

Clockwise from top left: Owner Kinesha in front of the Cameo Macaron truck, chocolate macarons, macaron medley, NU love at the order window

“Macaroon is the Italian cookie with the shredded coconut… you can say French Macaroon and get away with it or you can say Macaron [mah-kah-rōn].” And so begins my interview with Northeastern University alumna and food truck founder, Kinesha Goldson. Disenchanted with corporate life as a buyer and craving the macarons she’d grown to love while studying abroad in Paris, Goldson founded food truck Cameo Macaron in the summer of 2013.

“I just wanted everyone to have the French experience I had in Paris”. Respecting the risk, but inspired by her Parisian visit and her love for baking, she developed a checklist of things she would need to start a food truck and decided to go for it. She credits Northeastern –particularly its overall flexibility along with her co-ops for inspiring her personal and professional confidence and her ability to take risks, “Just knowing and having that experience, sometimes you try things, you don’t like it, you learn from it and you move on.” Goldson, having gone through this, was originally a Criminal Justice major and switched to Communications after her first co-op when she realized it wasn’t a good fit.

“I’m using the heck out of my communications degree” she exclaims! With an Instagram following of over 1,500, Goldson had her social media sites up and running before even buying the truck, garnering her sufficient buzz citywide before their first bite. Now, more than a year later Goldson has regulars flocking to her truck daily and is catering everything from bridal showers to baptisms.

Naturally business-minded, she details how the best ideas are based on convenience. “If somebody is going through their everyday life and they’re saying to themselves, ‘I hate this, it would be so much better if [fill in the blank]’ than you have a good idea.” To that end, her advice to future entrepreneurs: keep an idea journal and only share your ideas with people you truly trust. She also cautions new entrepreneurs to pursue the least costly idea first and then use the money made to invest in their next idea. If feasible, pay for as much as possible in cash so you can break even more quickly. Goldson’s family, friends and personal savings allowed her to fund Cameo Macaron and she acknowledges how lucky she is for not owing anyone anything.

Not surprisingly, owning a business comes with its challenges, as Goldson explains that it’s hard to find good and reliable help and she does everything from driving the truck to ordering inventory to managing the socials. “It’s so rewarding though when people walk up and are so excited. There’s so much risk involved and what keeps it going is that people get it and support you; knowing that your idea is relatable is a great feeling.”

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding”. Further touting her experience at Northeastern, Goldson explains, “It helps being around like-minded people who have that Northeastern entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude, it’s really inspiring.” Check out Cameo Macaron’s schedule and hop over for a macaron or five. I would highly recommend the pistachio and rose petal (yes, rose petal) – you’ll be just slightly more Parisian after you do.

Follow Cameo Macaron on Twitter and Instagram to get the latest updates and locations.

Rip van ‘Tastic: A Tasty Startup in San Francisco

photo

Rip van Wafels in action!

This post was written by Derek Cameron, an Associate Director in the Employer Relations Department of the Career Development office. He recently interviewed upperclassman Arun Basandani who is currently working in San Francisco at a “tasty” startup. 

The thought of moving to the West Coast and working for a startup is either a brave or crazy notion, depending on who you are, but that is exactly what Business major, Arun Basandani ’15, did when he embarked on his first co-op with Rip van Wafels, a San Francisco-based food company.

Founded in 2009 by Amsterdam native, Rip Pruisken, Rip van Wafels has sought to revolutionize how Americans enjoy their coffee time by bringing a piece European culture into the home and office with stroopwafels, a popular Dutch caramel-filled wafel.  The wafels are set atop a mug with the steam heating up the creamy filling. Because it takes a few minutes for the steam to warm the filling it creates a natural break, something that Pruisken hopes will provide everyone just enough time to slow down and enjoy their day.

As their Business Manager, Basandani helps execute their nationwide expansion strategy.  He has been involved in the planning and execution of an array of business verticals including:  sales, operations, finance, R&D and marketing.  “I made a deliberate decision to do my first co-op with a startup and I’m glad I did.  Every day is completely different from the day before, which makes this job interesting and exciting.  I have the ability to do work that actually has an impact and is relevant to the company.  It gives me the chance to be part of something that is fundamentally changing consumer behavior in the US and beyond.”

As far as choosing San Francisco as a potential co-op destination, Basandani fully endorses it, “San Francisco is one the most exciting, beautiful and vibrant cities in America. I love travelling, meeting new people and seeing new places so I loved the entire experience of moving to an unknown place. San Francisco has a lively art, music and sport scene with delicious cuisines from all over the world. Apart from the expensive real estate and chilly weather, there isn’t much wrong with this city.”

If you would like to learn about opportunities with Rip van Wafels or to hear more about their company, head over to the Curry Ballroom and meet them in person at the Startup and Entrepreneurship Fair on Wednesday, 11/20.  They will be on hand from 12:00-3:00 p.m. and eager to meet with Northeastern students!

Corporate vs. Startup Life: Which Is For You?

What's best for you? Source: www.primemagazine.com

What’s best for you?
Source: www.primemagazine.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson.

When looking for your first job, it’s important to take into consideration the environment in which you thrive as an employee. Are you a creature of habit who craves structure? Do you prefer a relaxed, highly collaborative work environment.

The Corporate Life: The environment of established companies will vary from place to place. At an established company, systems and standard work already exist and your role in the company is usually clearly defined. If you have concrete career goals in a specific industry or at a specific company, the corporate life might be for you. Large, established companies are amazing assets for those with specific career goals because there is a clear hierarchy and distinct career paths. Generally, these companies also offer better packages in terms of salary and insurance. Here’s where you will find your job security.

Tip: If you live by the mantra “work to live” and crave work-life balance, a fairly established company will probably suit you better than a startup, where hours can be more sporadic and emails from your boss on a Saturday night are normal.

The Startup Life: It is not for the feint of heart. At a startup, you are likely to be given an incredible amount of responsibility and your skills will grow quickly. Networking events will

Source: http://venturevillage.eu/infographic-pros-cons-startup

Source: http://venturevillage.eu/infographic-pros-cons-startup

become a second home and your network of entrepreneurs in the city will grow immensely. In a fast-growing startup, hours might vary greatly from day to day. Evening events are frequent, so don’t be surprised if your fellow employees don’t run out the door as soon as 5pm rolls around.

What’s a co-working space? This is a large office where startups can rent desk space. This allows for a community of startups who can learn from each other and gain access to resources and mentorship more easily. Co-working spaces will frequently set up socials and events so companies can meet each other and share ideas.

Tip: If you’re brand new to a city, working at a startup is definitely a good resource for meeting people and getting your foot in the door. Frequent networking events and evening office gatherings will spice up your evenings.

Startups and large companies vary greatly, but both are valuable career moves. Before you start applying for jobs, take a look at your own values and decide which career environment is best for you.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson.

Happier after working at Happier.com

source: happier.com

source: happier.com

It was an honor to have the opportunity to interview stand-out student, Andrew Barba. A 3rd year computer science major set to graduate in 2016, he recently finished his co-op at Happier.com, an extremely successful tech start-up in the Boston area.  He gave me great insight into what a co-op at Happier.com is like, how to navigate the interview process, and what it is like to work for a start-up.  All of you entrepreneurs out there or people interested in start-ups, listen up!

Ashley LoBue (AL): Can you tell me a little bit about Happier.com?

Andrew Barba (AB):  Nataly Kogan, one of the founders, had worked for well-known companies like Microsoft and was extremely successful. She thought that she would be happy when she hit a certain level of success and made a lot of money, but Nataly found that it wasn’t the case.  So, she and her co-founder, Colin Plamondon, got the idea to create something that can make people happier in other ways—they did some research and found that if you write down three happy thoughts a day, then you were scientifically proven to be happier. Happier.com started out as an iPhone app but then got extended to the web since it was cost effective.

(AL): What did you do day-to-day as a co-op for Happier?

(AB): I actually got to work on the iPhone app for three months, and then they said “here, build a website”, so I was really excited about the amount of responsibility I had. Yoav, the CTO of Happier, was my mentor, and I did it all as far as coding—all of the other stuff was on him.  It was a lot of fun! Yoav actually designed the system we work with, which is called Agile Software Development.  The idea is that you release products and features quickly so you learn quickly—the key to this system is that you don’t release it when it’s perfect, you release it when it’s ready, so that you can get user feedback and adjust things according to that feedback.  We are able to do this through “Sprints”.  Every Monday we have a big planning day where the whole team gets into different groups (like design, product engineering etc.) and we try to brainstorm on what we can get done. Natalie leads the meeting and talks about the direction she wants to go in, and then we triage from there—the design team says we can do this, and then product engineering says that they can do that etc. We release in two week chunks.  On the web, we release as soon as the app is done.

(AL): What are the challenges?

(AB): One of the challenges working for a start-up is that you have to start projects that you don’t really know how to design. You might think something will work, but in actuality it won’t.  One time I literally deleted everything that I worked on for a long time because it wasn’t functional and I made a mistake. For every mistake you do though, I think you always learn two or three things, so that you always are a better programmer today than yesterday.  As a student, you are taught to do things in a certain way, but you need to learn to think outside of the box if you want to solve a problem or do something that hasn’t been done before.   

(AL): What do you like most about it?

(AB): Freedom is what I like most about this position—they don’t call me an intern because I will build a product for them like the other engineers, so they treat me like another member of the team. They give me a huge amount of responsibility, which I don’t feel like I would’ve gotten at an internship at say, Facebook.

Tech Startups Image Source: entrepreneur.com

Tech Startups
Image Source: entrepreneur.com

(AL): How did you get your co-op with Happier?

(AB): I met happier at the Co-op expo.  They really liked that I had already made two apple apps—I started learning how to make apps by signing up for 12 one-hour classes on how to do it. It was time consuming, but I loved it.  I gave them my resume but actually showed the apps I made. I believe this side project helped differentiate me from the other candidates and say more about me than my resume could.

(AL): What about post graduation?

(AB): I would love to start something on my own one day—the startup space is fun, a lot of work, and moves very quickly, but I just love that environment.

(AL): What is the best piece of advice you can give other students to be successful in co-op?

(AB): I would say to definitely speak up to your supervisors.  Don’t be quiet in a meeting and voice your opinions. Your team really wants to hear what you have to say.  

Alum Advice: Create Your Own Opportunity

Image source: http://www.jeetbanerjee.com/50-great-quotes-about-entrepreneurship/

Image source: http://www.jeetbanerjee.com/50-great-quotes-about-entrepreneurship/

This guest post was written by Joe Ciccolo, a 2004 Criminal Justice graduate and an accomplished expert in building enterprise risk management functions.  He now serves as a financial regulatory consultant for various Rotary International service projects. 

There’s no question that the current employment landscape is extremely challenging for today’s job seekers. While employers have trimmed spending to the bone and large-scale layoffs have subsided, hiring remains anemic. Organizations positioned for growth are very deliberate and highly selective when it comes to interviewing and retaining candidates for employment.

This so-called “employer’s market” continues to disproportionately affect college graduates, as employers remain committed to measuring qualification in terms of years of experience. Not surprisingly, the popular refrain I hear from so many recent graduates is ‘how can I get a job that requires experience, if I can’t get any experience?’ It’s a question that I asked myself many a time while submitting 100s of applications in the months following my graduation from Northeastern in 2004. How I wish I knew then what I know!

The answer to this question is simple…create your own job. After all, experience is not the product of formal employment, but rather the demonstration of one’s ability to identify and solve problems, and effectively manage projects.

To accomplish this, I advise those I mentor to seek out and approach an organization that has a particular need that would benefit from their unique skill set. For example, the marketing graduate might begin by exploring the collateral of various non-profit and civic groups within her community. After identifying a potential need, say for example brochures for an upcoming charity golf tournament, she could then approach the group and offer to provide her expertise in exchange for formal recognition. Such an endeavor would not only provide much needed project management experience and items for her professional portfolio, but would also put her in a position to meet business owners and other influential parties. Similarly, a computer science student might offer to create a website and social media presence for a local organization in exchange for his credentials appearing at the bottom of the homepage or recognition at an upcoming fundraising dinner.

The opportunities are limitless, and applicable to all graduates irrespective of major. All it takes is individual motivation and to the willingness to put yourself out there. Non-profit and civic organizations are always looking for motivated individuals to share their vocational talents. In so doing, individuals will have the opportunity to display in demand project management and problem solving skills, while giving something back to their community.

Continued best wishes to members of the Class of 2013 and those following in their footsteps. Go Huskies!

About the author:

Joe Ciccolo graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice in 2004. He’s an accomplished expert in building enterprise risk management functions, including the fraud prevention department of a publicly traded financial services firm and most recently the anti-money laundering department of a large online bank. Mr. Ciccolo is a Certified Fraud Examiner and Anti-Money Laundering Certified Associate. He serves as a financial regulatory consultant for various Rotary International service projects. 

Mr. Ciccolo can be reached via email at joeciccolo@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @AML_Report  

Note: Views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Ciccolo and do not necessarily represent those of his employer.